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Farm Bill--Food Stamp Debate Continues

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Fair Trade & Social Justice page and our Politics and Democracy page.

Ali Meyer reported yesterday at that, "A record 20% of American households, one in five, were on food stamps in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)."

Meanwhile, Ron Nixon reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, "Late last year, staff members at the Capital Area Food Bank here [Washington] began fielding requests for larger deliveries from the dozens of soup kitchens and food pantries that it supplies as more and more people showed up seeking help.

"The food bank said it was not unusual to see a surge before Thanksgiving or Christmas. But this time the lines were caused not by the holidays but by a $5 billion cut to the federal food stamp program that took effect in November when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expired.

"Now the food bank, which provided about 45 million pounds of food last year, says it is preparing for even greater demand as Congress prepares to cut billions of dollars more from the food stamp program, which is included in a farm bill that has yet to pass. About 47 million Americans receive food stamps."

Mr. Nixon explained that, " It is unclear when the new cuts will kick in, even if Congress manages to pass a new farm bill, an effort that has taken almost two years. The House and the Senate appear to have worked out most of their differences on the bill. That compromise is expected to cut about $9 billion from food stamps over 10 years. House Republicans had wanted to trim financing by $40 billion over the same period, and a bipartisan Senate bill sought a $4 billion cut.

"But House members, most of them Republicans, may be unwilling to pass a bill that includes anything less than the $40 billion cut. And senators, especially Democrats, may see the compromise measure as going too far. President Obama has threatened to veto any bill that cuts too deeply."

The Times article added that, " Lawmakers say the compromise would not force anyone off the food stamp rolls. The budget savings, said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan and chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, would come from changes to the way states administer a federal program that helps low-income families with their heating bills."

Chris Morisse Vizza reported this week at the Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Ind.) Online that, "Agreement on a five-year farm bill may be announced soon, according to [Sen. Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.)].

"The legislation has been stalled for months while the Senate, which Democrats control, and the Republican-controlled House have battled over cuts in food stamp funding, which is included in the ag bill. The House approved a $40 billion cut in food aid over a 10-year period.

"' There will be a $9 billion reduction,' Donnelly said of the pending Senate proposal. 'We've been carefully going line by line.   We have worked hard to make sure SNAP covers our children.' The reference was to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program."

Meanwhile, Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, "Discussing the farm bill, [Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley] said the principal negotiators may take his language defining an actively engaged farmer out of the farm bill and leave it up to USDA to determine who is actively engaged. This Congress is filled with lawmakers who have criticized administrative rulemaking usurping congressional authority. Yet, farm-bill conferees now seem intent on turning over rulemaking to USDA to redefine who is actively engaged as a farmer."     
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